Washington. Contact tracing app helps slow COVID-19

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(TNS) – Millions of COVID-19 home tests are expected to be distributed over the next few days and head to anxious Washingtonians, just as the number of positive cases in the state hits record highs. Yes, vaccinations, mask use and testing are essential to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, but so is digital contact tracing.

To help each other out, don’t overlook the state’s exposure notification app, WA Notify, as an invaluable tool in the fight against the pandemic. Already, about 3 million people — roughly half of all smartphone users in the state — have activated the app, which alerts users if they’ve been exposed to the virus. About 2,000 new users are added every week, health officials said.

Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the application depends not only on the number of people who use it, but also on those who wish to report positive cases anonymously. While telling your phone you have COVID can hardly be expected to be a priority after a positive diagnosis, it can be an essential contribution to helping protect public health.


An early study from the University of Washington and models from Oxford, Stanford and Google – which, along with Apple, helped develop the technology used by the app – shows the benefits of using WA Notify. The UW study found the app likely prevented more than 5,000 COVID cases four months after its launch in November 2020, while modeling indicates that if 15% of the population of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties used the app. application, it could reduce infections by around 8% and deaths by around 6%.

Clear data on how many times the app has alerted users or how many people have been alerted remains confusing, largely because of privacy protections built into the system, said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy health secretary. of Washington for the response to COVID-19.

The app uses Bluetooth technology to determine proximity to other users. This information is stored in the phone itself and does not include any personal or location data. Anyone tested by a laboratory should receive an activation code which they can then use to anonymously notify other users they may have been close to. If the positive result is from an at-home test, users can request a code from the app.

“The trade-off there means we don’t have the kind of valuation data that a lot of people would like,” Fehrenbach said. “But we continue to hear stories of people getting tested because they received an exposure notification or are taking other steps to protect themselves and others, and that’s really the power of this tool.”

Washington can be proud to take advantage of this technology – more than 20 states don’t use it at all, and WA Notify is at the forefront of authorizing home test reports – but a tool is not powerful only when used.

If you haven’t activated the app, do so today. And if you test positive, do your part and report it.

©2022 The Seattle Times, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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